King Jeongjo (正祖, 정조, 1752-1800, r. 1776-1800) was the twenty-second monarch of the Chosun dynasty. His name (諱, 휘) was Yi San (李祘, 이산); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Hyeong’un (亨運, 형운); and his pen name (號, 호) was Hongjae (弘齋, 홍재). He was the grandson of King Yeongjo (英祖, 영조, 1694-1776, r. 1724-1776). He is the son of the stained Crown Prince Sado (思悼世子, 사도세자) and Lady Heongyeong (獻敬王后, 헌경왕후). King Jeongjo was popular for his reforms of the agricultural system, establishment of the Kyungjanggak Archives (奎章閣, 규장각), and curbing abuses of the civil examination system.
In the poem excerpt below, King Jeongjo gathered several Confucian scholars from the Seonggyungwan (成均館, 성균관) as well as his own ministers and took turns composing a couplets. It is in commemoration of “Grain Rains,” or Gok’u (穀雨, 곡우). Gok’u is one of the twenty-four solar terms of the year and falls around April 20th every year. It marks the last of the solar terms associates with Spring. It was widely believed that if rain did not fall on Gok’u that that was a bad omen for the harvest season.
便殿, 召見泮製被抄諸生, 賜賞物有差饋之酒. 時穀雨霏微, 春意藹然.
편전, 소견반제피초제생, 사상물유차궤지주. 시곡우비미, 춘의갈연.
At a Side Room of the Palace, the Confucian Students [Who Were] Chosen by a Ledger (泮製, 반제) Were Called for an Audience [With the King]. They Were Given Gifts and [Commensurate] With Their Different [Ranks] Given Wine. At That Time, It Was the Grain Rains (穀雨, 곡우, Gok’u), the Rain was Drizzling, and the Spring Mood Was Lush.
以”春雨瓊林讌綠袍”爲題, 仍拈春字, 與諸生及在筵者聯韻.
이”춘우경림연록포”위제, 잉념춘자, 여제생급재연자련운.
“In the Spring Rain of Gyeongrim, a Feast for the Blue Robed” Was Made the Theme. Thus, the Character for Spring (春, 춘, Chun) Was Picked and Together With the Confucian Students and Those on Mats Connected Rimes.
- 饋(궤) – To send as gift (보내다).
- 藹(갈) – To be lush (우거지다).
- 讌(연) – To host a feast (잔치하다).
- 拈(념) – To pick (집다).
- 筵(연) – Bamboo mat (대자리).
Having been fostered and having arrived, the vitality has become one house’s Spring;
Drinking jars of wine and debating texts, let us again see our true selves.
Composed by the King.
- 樽酒(준주) – Wine casket (술통).
The fostering of talent in the Zhou age (周, 주, Ju, 1046-256 BC) has expanded the learning of enlightenment;
The accessibility of classics in the Song times (宋, 송, Song, 960-1279) has made anew the revealing of the beautiful.
Composed by Yi Ujae (李愚在, 이우재).
- 菁莪(청아) – Refers to educating individual talent.
- 霑化(점화) – Literally “Bedewed by enlightenment.”
- 奎壁(규벽) – Refers to an abbreviated edition of a Confucian classic.
- 休(휴) – Perhaps means “to be beautiful” here (아름답다).
The peaceful and tranquil etiquette music (禮樂, 예악) shines upon and illuminates this gathering;
The flowery and bright of all things and affairs are clear and vast set time.
Composed by Seo Yeongbo (徐榮輔, 서영보).
- 辰(신) – Here, “set date” (擇日, 택일).
Serving the country originally was to aid the many auspicious scholars;
The exalted classics challenge to my delight and see to my body.
Composed by Hong Nakjun (洪樂浚, 홍낙준).
- 右文(우문) – Refers to the esteem and respect for learning of classics.
The precious ink of the jade-like heaven often write on scrolls;
The gentle winds of the locust tree market for how many times shake the cloths?
Composed by Yi Mansu (李晩秀, 이만수)
- 璇霄(선소) – Refers to blue skies.
- 槐市(괴시) – Refers to the market east of Chang’an (長安, 장안, Jang’an), one of the major capitals in ancient China, where literati gathered on the first day or the day of the full moon of the month to trade classics, musical instruments, and other materials. The streets around the market were planted with locust trees (槐, 회).
Selecting the distinguished with blue coins, this new composition is exquisite;
Creating personally an inch of jade, the standards have been followed.
Composed by Yi Heuik (李羲翼, 이희익).
- 雋選(춘선) – To select those talented and outstanding.
- 靑錢(청전) – Literally, “blue coins.” It refers to passing the civil examination.
- 玉尺(옥척) – Literally, “an inch of jade.” It refers to the degree of doing well on the examination.